Rep. Susan Davis and her Maryland colleague Rep. John Sarbanes. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Rep. Susan Davis and her Maryland Congressional colleague John Sarbanes joined forces in San Diego Wednesday to urge a public-funding alternative to “big money” financing of election campaigns.

“Many elected officials spend more time raising money than with the people they represent,” said Davis, who represents California’s 53rd District. “I’m convinced that there’s a better way.”

“There’s just too much money clogging up the system,” said Sarbanes. “The bottom line affect of this is that every day citizens feel marginalized.”

Davis and Sarbanes spoke at a roundtable on the impact of money in politics held at the Copley-Price Family YMCA. More than 50 community leaders and political activists attended the event in Mid City.

Sarbanes said big money doesn’t always decide elections, but it wins after the election because incumbents need to continually raise money to be re-elected. He said this is especially true in Congress.

He has reintroduced his “Government By the People Act” to make small donations more significant via tax credits and a 6-to-1 public match if a candidate forgoes funding by large Political Action Committees. The legislation is modeled after successful campaign-finance laws at the state and local levels.

“We need to find a way to make every day citizens the power behind a campaign,” he said. “They should be beating a path to your door, not to the K Street lobbyists in Washington.”

He acknowledged that his bill is unlikely to be considered by the current Republican-led Congress, but noted that many conservatives would support this reform.

Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UC San Diego, said there’s no way to stop big money because of recent Supreme Court rulings — notably Citizens United — but new ways can be found to boost the impact of small contributions.

“If the anger and cynicism people feel is channeled…we can restore some faith in our democracy,” said Sarbanes.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.